What Can I Eat on the DASH Diet?

By Bobbie Hasslebring

The DASH eating plan requires no special foods. It emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods.

Because the DASH diet features fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it contains a healthy amount of fiber. Fiber can help keep your bowels more regular and keep you from getting constipated. It may also cause a little bloating at first, but this passes quickly as your body adjusts to the fiber. To allow your body to get used to this new food plan, gradually increase your servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Each food group is an important part of the DASH diet.

Vegetables and Fruits

Fruits and vegetables provide a rich source of potassium and magnesium. These nutrients may be important in regulating blood pressure. In addition, they tend to be low in calories and high in fiber.

One serving of vegetables equals:

  • 1 cup raw, leafy vegetable
  • ½ cup cooked vegetable
  • 6 ounces of vegetable juice

One serving of fruit equals:

  • 1 medium fruit
  • ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
  • ¼ cup dried fruit
  • 6 ounces of fruit juice

Grains and Grain Products

Breads, cereals, rice, and pasta provide energy. A serving of grain or grain products equals:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 cup dry cereal
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal

Select whole-wheat breads and whole-grain cereals for added fiber.

Low-fat or Nonfat Dairy Products

Low-fat or nonfat dairy products are good sources of protein and calcium, an important nutrient in blood pressure control. A typical serving of dairy products equals:

  • 8 ounces milk
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1½ ounces of cheese

Meats, Poultry, and Fish

Meats, poultry, and fish are rich sources of protein and magnesium, which are important nutrients. To make sure you are making healthy choices, follow these tips.

  • Start out by using lean cuts of meat. You can recognize lean cuts by their names. Choose "loin" or "round" cuts.
  • To lower the amount of fat they contain, take these steps. Trim off any visible fat. Remove the skin from poultry. Use lower-fat cooking methods such as broiling, roasting, or boiling.

One serving of meat, poultry, or fish equals 3 ounces or a portion about the size of a deck of cards or standard personal checkbook.

Nuts, Seeds, Dry Beans or Peas

Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas provide a rich source of magnesium, potassium, and protein. Because nuts and seeds are high in fat, they have a lot of calories. That means to make sure you don't overindulge, you need to pay attention to serving sizes.

  • A serving of nuts equals ½ cup or ½ ounce.
  • A serving of seeds equals 2 tablespoons or ½ ounce.
  • A serving of cooked dried beans equals ½ cup.

Fats and Oils

Since fats carry flavor, they are an important part of a tasty diet. The DASH diet recommends eating these healthier fats and oils:

  • soft margarine
  • low-fat mayonnaise
  • light salad dressing

Serving sizes vary by the amount of fat in the product. Use the following as a guide:

  • one serving of regular salad dressing equals 1 tablespoon
  • one serving of low-fat dressing equals 2 tablespoons
  • one serving of vegetable oil or margarine equals 1 teaspoon
  • one serving of low-fat mayonnaise equals 1 tablespoon

Sweets

For many of us, sweets add interest and fun to our diets. Sweets on the DASH diet should be low in fat. These can include hard candy, jelly beans, maple syrup, fruit punch, fruit flavored gelatin, or sorbet or ices.

One serving of sweets equals:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon jelly or jam
  • 8 ounces of lemonade

To help you stick with your healthy eating habits, also see: How Can I Cook Healthy Meals?